Preview: Han Schuman reaches out to youth, hopes to impact lives through jazz

Han Schuman’s performance tomorrow will be an ‘inclusive’ jazz history program. (Photo courtesy of Hollis Ashby)

Han Schuman hopes to “foster a greater awareness, appreciation, and understanding of jazz music, particularly in young audiences.”

Schuman is the founder, artistic director and current executive of JazzReach, a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, founded in 1994. Schuman will be performing at the college tomorrow at 2 p.m.

JazzReach seeks to bring jazz, “one of our nation’s most important contributions to world culture…into the ears and souls of young people” by conducting multi-media concerts showcasing the history of jazz.

Being out of college for a few years and playing around New York, Schuman said he noticed that “outside of New York City there was very little jazz in the world, but particularly in schools.” Adding that he believes is because jazz “is a subject matter that is typically overlooked in most students’ American history classes or social studies classes.”

As of 2015, JazzReach presents their programs all across the country, serving a total of 255,000 young people nationwide since their founding, according to their website. 

JazzReach has several signature programs, including “Miles Davis and the Blue Flame Incident,” which chronicles “the groundbreaking achievements of the iconic trumpeter, bandleader and cultural provocateur, Miles Davis,” according to stARThere.

The Website St. Cecilia Music Center says that “She Said/She Says,” describes “the many important achievements of female composers, arrangers, instrumentalists and vocalists from early 20th century through present-day.”

Schuman said that these presentations are multi-media and include “live music, live narration, and video projections.” This allows the presentations to encapsulate their subject matter and fully immerse the audience in a different world, he added.

“Stolen Moments,” which will be performed tomorrow, is “a jazz history program that’s pretty all inclusive.” The title, Schuman says, “refers to the moments that jazz musicians had on the bandstand improvising, and these are artists who were, to a great extent, oppressed in their everyday lives, and the bandstand gave them the opportunity to fully express themselves and be creative.”

Schuman says that part of JazzReach’s success has been the ability to connect with people and organizations who “endorse and believe in our mission.” Over the course of JazzReach’s nearly twenty-five year lifetime, the group has partnered with more than 80 performing arts presenters in at least 40 states.

Metta Quintet, the group’s resident ensemble, is also an active performing force, creating several recordings and frequently doing mainstage concerts.

Schuman said that performers and musicians involved in JazzReach, including Metta Quintet, who is the group’s resident ensemble, are well aware of the history of music.

“It’s good to just have them under their belt as a foundation.”

This has been a typical feature of the jazz musician’s persona for more than a century, including American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who chronicles his influences in his autobiography. Davis was known for constantly adapting his style to what he thought sounded best, and frequently cited other musicians of his time as sources of that inspiration.

Schuman harkens back to this when he says that he thinks “modern jazz artists are like a sponge.”

“I know that most modern-day musicians, and most of the musicians that perform with us, in their late-twenties, early-thirties, they’ve spent a great deal of time studying the history of the music, but they’ve also grown up in an era where there’s just so many genres of music, so they’ve also had great exposure to pop music, and hip-hop, orchestral music, rock music…so I think the modern day jazz artists are like a sponge.”

This sponge-like mentality is extremely reminiscent of Davis’s philosophy, and is a quintessential element of what keeps jazz alive.

JazzReach has been extremely successful in its quarter of a century of operation. Schuman estimates that they’ve reached at least half a million students all over the country.

Tickets for tomorrow’s show are $19 for adults, $6 for students with an ID and children under 16, and free for Lafayette students.

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